TO HONOR MARTIN LUTHER KING’S LEGACY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CALL FOR RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS ACT

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By Mark Gavit

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we look back 50 years, to when Dr. King shared his wise words with the nation, words which altered the nations views on civil injustice.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly," Dr. King wrote in 1963. Half a century later the words are just as relevant to today's society.

Dr. King fought for enactment of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Civil Rights Act, to assure equal rights for all Americans.  But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act -- and now a bipartisan coalition of Senators hopes to restore the Voting Rights Act's powers.

The  coverage formula that required some states and cities with a history of voter discrimination to seek federal approval for any voting changes - also known as pre-clearance - was struck down last year in the Shelby County v. Holder case. The Supreme Court found that Congress needs to update its procedures so as not to require pre-clearance for jurisdictions that had discriminatory practices in the past, but not recently.

"It is imperative that Congress work to make the Voting Rights Act whole once more. We simply cannot continue marching toward the more perfect union that Dr. King fought and died for if members of our society find their right to vote so easily denied," said Darren Parker, Chair of the California Democratic Party's African-American Caucus.

Now a bill has been introduced in Congress by James Sensenbrenner (R- Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich) and Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.) who have led a bipartisan effort to address this with the introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The act would offer a fix, allowing the federal government to stop states from discriminating on the basis of race, but limiting such pre-clearance of voting laws only to states or cities with recent discrimination – not discrimination long in the past.


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